‘It is good to give alms for men’s sake. Even if it is only done to please men, through it one can begin to seek to please God.’
— Amma Sarah
The world is full of people who looking are for the right time, the right place, the right motive, or the right feeling to begin to serve others. I have been guilty of this sort of thing more than once in my life. The wise elder is telling us to give for whatever motive that we possess. In this case alms are given to please men, but even a wrongly motivated act of grace can be a backdoor to pleasing God.
God’s essential call to us is to look outside of ourselves and to act as He would act. Think about it, God in the form of the man Jesus, came to live and die on this earth for you and me. Not only did He do this great act of kindness, but He did it knowing that many would reject Him. Let us use His example as a call to action. We are called to muster whatever amount of kindness and compassion that we can find in our souls. Don’t wait for everything to be “just right,” just act. God will use your actions for good. He will be pleased. Enter His backdoor, He welcomes you.
One nun came to Blessed Sarah and said to her: Pray for me, my lady. – The blessed one said to her: Neither will I have mercy on you nor will God unless you have mercy on yourself, fulfilling the virtues as the Fathers have commanded us.
——-Amma Sarah of the Desert
The ability to forgive yourself is key to your psychological well-being. Unforgiveness of self causes a wide range of problems. Suicide, addictions and depression are just a few of the many things associated with self-condemnation. Psychologists struggle to develop creative ways to address this issue. Many suffer from a lack of awareness of their problem with this issue. Behavioral professionals, religious and irreligious, know the importance of self-forgiveness. Many corporate hours are spent in seminars that stress the necessity of learning the importance of forgiveness. This endeavor is tremendously costly for the corporate world.
Amma Sara knew about such forgiveness 1500 years ago, and said it was the place to start. God is a God of forgiveness and grace, and we must forgive ourselves in order to receive forgiveness. Our problem with self-forgiveness is that we don’t really believe in grace – that marvelous property of God that allows Him to forgive us even though we are most undeserving. Amma Sarah called the forgiving of ourselves a fulfillment of the virtues that were bestowed upon us by the Creator. Forgiveness, even of our own faults, is a virtue.
- Adventures in Forgiveness (matterofprayerblog.wordpress.com)
- Deep Roots of Unforgiveness (saranortonsanner.com)
Another time, two old men, great anchorites, came to the district of Pelusia to visit her. When they arrived one said to the other, ‘Let us humiliate this old woman.’ So they said to her, ‘Be careful not to become conceited thinking to yourself: “Look how anchorites are coming to see me, a mere woman.” ‘But Amma Sarah said to them, ‘According to nature I am a woman, but not according to my thoughts.’
—Amma Sara of the Desert
The idea of people of power and prestige trying to dishonor someone they see as their inferior is not a new phenomenon. Here these many years ago we see such injustices being perpetrated. The wise Amma outdid herself with her answer. She refused to be defined by others or by her gender. Rather, she said that her thoughts would define her.
The concept defining ourselves by our thoughts is most important to anyone who seeks to live the contemplative life. Our secular world is very quick to define us by their criteria, and our challenge is to refuse their characterization. This resounding NO says we know who we are in the Lord, and that He formed us and created us as persons of value. Let us determine today that we will not be defined by the prejudices of others, but by the gifts and graces that God has bestowed upon us, even the least of us.
- Who Is a Woman? Am I One? (sreelakshmipv.wordpress.com)
The tradition of women going to live a life of prayer and work is as old as that of male monastics. Today I share a saying of the most famous of the Ammas.
Amma Sarah said, ‘If I prayed God that all men should approve of my conduct, I should find myself a penitent at the door of each one, but I shall rather pray that my heart may be pure towards all.’
——Amma Sarah of the Desert
Is it really important that our conduct be approved by men? Obviously, Amma Sarah says that such is an unreachable dream. The concept of being penitent to each person as a way of proving your spiritual value is rejected. Difficulty abounds when we seek individual approval because every person we approach has a different standard. The wise mother tells us to pray for purity of heart and all else will follow.
This advice would go a long way for us as we seek to follow the path of God. Surely we know there are many demands that are put upon us. Each of these demands portends to be the way of God. Now, as it was then, it is impossible to satisfy the opinions of all. The enlightening advice is to pray for purity of heart and all our goals will be satisfied. Prayer for purity of heart is the deepest and most personal of desires because it calls for internal change rather that external behavior.
- Prayer (christianfaithwalk.co.uk)